Having hosted 3 swaps now, I’ve received a lot of questions about the best way to do it. I learn a bit every time, so here are some tips thus far.
1) Find a good venue. The most obvious place would be a local plant shop or nursery, who are often happy to host this type of event at their space. It brings them revenue since plant lovers like to plant shop! Make sure they have their own tables to fit the number you’re anticipating. (I’d recommend about 2 square feet of table space per person) and a nice open space. It’s also good to have the event somewhere that’s used to hosting. They may even have their own sign-up site you can use, and a group of regular customers who might be interested.
2) Recruit people to help if you can. Even if they are just assigned to help recruit swappers, it’s nice to have a team! And unless you’re in the plant business yourself, you’ll be using your free time to organize. Having additional help will come in handy!
3) Create an event sign-up and decide on the max number. This is typically set by the amount of space you have. EventBrite works well, but keep in mind they do take $1 per sign-up.
4) I recommend a small fee (we’ve done $5). This not only increases the likelihood that people who sign up will show, but also provides money for light drinks/snacks, materials, and possibly a little giveaway. If the cost is too high, you risk pricing people out of coming. Plant swaps are all about community and sharing, so try to make it accessible to everyone.
5) Provide basic instructions on your event sign-up. People will be nervous and have a lot of questions. These can preemptively be answered by giving lots of information up front in your sign-ups. I’ve included an example at the bottom of this post. I also included an email update we sent for the last swap.
6) Start recruiting. Stories and posts on Instagram are one of the best ways. If you have a swipe-up function, use it. There are also Facebook groups you might announce on. (I’m seldom on Facebook, but if you are, you probably know where to find them).
7) Consider bringing to the swap:
a. Name tags
c. Basic instructions (can be on a whiteboard from Michaels, for example)
e. A roll of paper towels and rubber bands to transport plants with a damp paper towel wrapped around the bare roots.
f. Labels for plants or plant flats. At the last event we used masking tape and labeled peoples’ names on their flats.
g. Cups, plates, snacks, drinks, ice/ice bucket or cooler. We were able to provide alcohol at the last swap by shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco. Of course it’s important to have non-alcoholic options as well. As you can see in the instructions, I encouraged people to bring their own water/water bottles since I’m not a fan of plastic water bottles for environmental reasons.
h. If you do a giveaway, bring a jar for giveaway names to be placed in along with entry cards
i. Sharpies – lots.
j. Plant flats – this was a first for this swap, and I think it worked well. The black mesh plastic flats are usually abundant at nurseries. They are not a must, but they allow an easy way to determine whose plants are whose. The entire flat can be labeled with that person’s name instead of individual plants. Special thanks to Shannon Stone of @horticulturistaa for this idea.
8) At the swap: Welcome your attendants! Ask people to sign in and get their name tag. People will be nervous at first. This is normal. Many will be first-timers and feel awkward walking up to each other asking to swap plants. I make announcements with basic instructions that encourage people to grab a snack/drink and mingle first to loosen the atmosphere. Some people come to socialize with fellow plant lovers more than anything. I also encourage people to approach their host(s) with any questions. Any time they want to approach someone about a plant, just ask if they might be interested in seeing what they have to offer in a swap. Typically after about 20 min there’s no stopping anyone! Often there are a few generous people who just want to give away cuttings, which is fun as well.
Example event information:
“It’s plant swapping time! Come join us for a Plant Swap on Saturday, March 9 from 2-3:30pm. Bring your plants and cuttings to share with others, meet other plant nerds, make new planty friends, eat some snacks and check out all the goodies for sale in the nursery!
How does a plant swap work? Each attendee brings plants or plant cuttings to share with others. New to the plant world? Bring something simple like some succulent cuttings or babies. Plant enthusiasts — bring some of your special stuff to share with the rest of the collectors. Remember that everyone is in a different place in their plant journey so be prepared to chat, trade & learn. Learning is half the fun (ok, collecting is half the fun). Please, no plants for sale, just trades.
Space is limited, so sign-up soon! A $5 fee will help defray snack costs and secure your place. Once you register, more details will be forthcoming.
Street parking will be available; but please be prepared to possibly walk a block or two, as things can get a little busy on the weekends.
$5 per person payable upon registration via EventBrite. Registration is only complete once you receive a payment confirmation email.
— $5 fee is non-refundable”
Here’s an email update we sent a couple of days prior to the event (the nice thing about EvenBrite is you can easily email all the attendees):
“Hey Plant Swappers,
Greetings! Thank you so much for signing up for our plant swap this weekend. At 60 people, it's sure to be lots of fun! We wanted to review a few things before the event; for additional information, see the EventBrite signup page.
We recommend you come prepared to walk up to a few blocks.
There's neighborhood parking around the nursery. We will have drinks and snacks, but please bring your own water bottle/water as we are staying away from plastic bottles for environmental reasons.
When you arrive at the event, please find one of the event hosts to get your name tag and sign in.
We’ll also have more information for you to get situated and swapping. We'll also have a giveaway, so be sure to put your name in the jar for that.
Say hi and get settled.
Typically the first part of the event is full of mingling--don't be nervous! It's a great time to connect with our plant community. We'll guide you through how to go about swapping, or feel free to dive in. Remember, no selling; just swaps or giveaways. Please feel free to grab us if you have any questions. We're excited to host you!”
Here’s some additional information that might be helpful to include, especially for new swappers. I borrowed it (with permission) from a post by Folia Collective (https://foliacollective.com/):
-Use a sharp knife or shears, taking care not to crush the stem.
-When taking cuttings of most leafy plants, cut low enough on the stem to leave 3-4 leaf nodes, or sets of leaves, intact. Other plants can be propagated from one leaf, sections of leaves, or simply dividing new plantlets off the mother plant, depending on the plant.
-Place cuttings in water immediately, or wrap in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag. This is not necessary for cuttings that need to callus over, like succulents, cacti, sansevierias, etc. “
I hope this information helps you host your first plant swap and many more! If you do, be sure to message me @workhardplanthard on Instagram so I can see. If you’d like to check out scenes from swaps I’ve held, check my highlights on Instagram – I’ve saved them as Swap 1, Swap 2, Swap 3 etc. Happy swapping!